State Officials Defend Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy

Iowa Farm Scene

Iowa leaders say voluntary approach to reducing farm runoff will work if given a chance.

Published on: July 31, 2013

The consequences of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution aren't limited to the Dead Zone in the Gulf; they pose a serious problem in Iowa's waters too, says Rosenberg. "This year Iowa has seen significant threats to safe drinking water, high rates of soil erosion and the presence of harmful algae blooms in many Iowa lakes. It all suggests additional conservation action would benefit Iowans as well as people living downstream."

Environmental groups are pushing for numeric standards to be set for nitrate and phosphorus in streams, rivers and lakes

The news from last week's cruise of the Pelican, LUMCON's ship, came a week after Iowa ag secretary Bill Northey told an Iowa Farm Bureau conference that voluntary soil conservation and nutrient management practices outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy are the answer and can significantly reduce runoff pollution. He staunchly contends that putting more regulations on farmers won't work. He says more progress in solving pollution will come from the government working with farmers via a voluntary conservation and nutrient management approach—using education, information and scientifically-based recommendations. Along with conservation cost-sharing provided by the government.

But the Iowa Environmental Council and other environmental groups such as the Gulf Restoration Network aren't buying that strategy. They are calling for numeric standards to be established for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus. The network's executive director, Cynthia Sarthou, says "Since states have chosen to drag their feet on reducing pollution that's causing the dead zone, it is the federal EPA's responsibility to set strong standards." A coalition of environmental groups, known as the Mississippi River Collaborative, sued the U.S. EPA last year to force the agency to set and enforce numeric standards for nitrate and phosphorus in waterways. The lawsuit is pending.